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Walker Says He May Support Bill to Legalize Raw Milk Sales
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 01/10/2011

Supporters of an effort to legalize the sales of unpasteurized milk to consumers in Wisconsin may have a little more luck under a new governor. Last week, Scott Walker said he would likely sign a bill that would allow farmers to sell their raw milk if there were certain safeguards in place to protect the public. He made the comments after being notified that some lawmakers are promising to reintroduce the measure into the State Legislature this year.

Last May, former Governor Jim Doyle vetoed the proposal, saying the health of Wisconsin citizens 'need to be protected' and that he had an 'obligation to protect the (dairy) industry' in the event of a disease outbreak.

The issue was first brought to the forefront in late 2009 when about 35 people were sickened in southeastern Wisconsin after consuming contaminated raw milk that was purchased through a a cow-share program. After the incident received some negative press, dozens of supporters of raw milk sales lobbied the state agriculture department's board asking that a 50-year-old rule banning such sales be lifted.

After that meeting, Rep. Chris Danou of Chippewa Falls sponsored the bill that would have given Wisconsin dairy producers the legal right to sell unpasteurized milk under a one-year trial program. The law would have also required Grade A farmers to become state-certified, conduct regular testing and identify their operations' name on each bottle or container sold to the public. Doyle vetoed the effort on May 19.

Meanwhile, the issue has split members of the agricultural industry since talks first began. Supporters say raw milk tastes better, contains bacteria that helps fight disease and is more natural. But others fear that even one instance of bacteria contamination could make people sick, thus having a negative publicity impact on the entire dairy industry.

Rep. Danou says he will wait to hear the final results of the Wisconsin Raw Milk Task Force, which was commissioned by Doyle and the late agriculture secretary Rod Nilsestuen, and then decided on how to draft another version of the bill.

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